In the last couple of days before Election Day, multiple figures from Fox News and a legal adviser for President Donald Trump’s campaign shared a video from a QAnon account with a major following.
On November 1, Fox News host Brian Kilmeade tweeted a video that falsely claimed to be a “President Trump campaign ... ad banned by Facebook,” with Kilmeade writing, “One of best political ads I have seen!!” Kilmeade also tagged Trump in the tweet.
Kilmeade’s posting of the video has since earned more than 2 million views and been shared tens of thousands of times. Among those sharing it are Trump campaign senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis, Fox News contributor Dan Bongino, and far-right actor James Woods. Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. also “liked” the video.
In actuality, the video is not an ad but was created by “JoeM,” who has had hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and is a devotee of the QAnon conspiracy theory, even co-authoring a bestselling book about it. (JoeM’s avatar and handle, @StormisUponUs, is slightly visible in the copy of the video Kilmeade tweeted.) The conspiracy theory has been tied to multiple violent incidents, including murder and attempted kidnappings, and it has been flagged by the FBI as a potential domestic terrorism threat.
JoeM, whose “introductory video” about QAnon is often used to introduce people to the conspiracy theory, has his own ties to extremism, bigotry, and harassment. For instance, in April 2019, the JoeM account instigated a baseless conspiracy theory that a California school fundraiser was somehow connected to former FBI Director James Comey, forcing the fundraiser to be canceled. In May 2019, after his Twitter account was briefly suspended (it has since been permanently suspended), he used his Instagram account to instigate a harassment campaign against a woman. In February 2019, his QAnon introductory video was posted on the YouTube account of the parents of a man arrested for trying to burn down a pizzeria that was at the center of the debunked Pizzagate conspiracy theory. And in October 2019, a police affidavit for a QAnon supporter arrested for an attempted kidnapping said the suspect had bracelets at home with JoeM’s handle on them.
This is not the first time this video from JoeM was widely shared. In February, Trump’s daughter-in-law (and Trump campaign advisor) Lara Trump shared the video, as did county Republican Party chapters throughout the country. (There have been multiple instances of people in Trump’s orbit -- including Trump himself -- amplifying and interacting with QAnon accounts and their content.)
In turn, JoeM lauded the spread of the video, noting on Parler the impact of Lara Trump’s share and the new shares by Kilmeade and the others because he had “hoped it would get seen again before the election.”